Posts Tagged food

Bioregional Quiz

1. Point north.

When asked to point north, I immediately looked to the sky. It was cloudy, so I couldn’t use the sun to determine which way was north. Even if I could, modern technology has allowed me to have a horrible sense of direction, so the likelihood of me getting it right was still iffy. Since technology created this problem, technology could solve it. I clicked on the compass app on my phone to figure out north. I felt a bit silly using a phone for something so simple, but I am not exactly in the habit of carrying around a compass. North on campus is facing Old West with Weiss behind  me.

2. What time is sunset today?

April 24, sunset is at 7:57 pm in Carlisle. I discovered this information by a simple Google search – again, relying on technology to find out something relatively simple. It seems like not too long ago sunset was happening around 5 pm, not 8. Although we live in the middle of town, there are plenty of places to watch a nice sunset. For example, the roof of Tome provides a good view, or a walk to the Carlisle high school’s field.

Conodiguinet Creek

3. Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

As Carlisle’s town website states, after rainfall the rain that falls into the Conodoguinet Creek and is treated to meet the Federal and state standers of safe drinking water. This action is done twenty four hours a day for 365 days and is tested for taste and color to assure is upheld according to the “Safe Drinking Water Act.”

4. How many feet above sea level are you?

Carlisle is 473 feet above sea level (Socolow 7). The information is from the article “Elevations in Pennsylvania” done by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania department of Environmental Resources under the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic survey. Cumberland valley has some high points though with the Ridge and Valley Section including the Blue Mountain which is much higher than Carlisle at 1100-2200 feet (Socolow 7). The lowest point in Cumberland County is the Susquehanna river at the junction of Cumberland, York and Dauphin counties at only 291 feet. Also the other two boroughs in Cumberland County which are Mechanicsburg and Shippensburg are 456 and 654 feet above the sea-level respectively (Socolow 7). Given that Carlisle is surrounded by the Ridge and Valley section including the Blue Mountain which is much higher than Carlisle might play a role in the high amounts of air pollution due to the existence of the trucking industry. The fact that Carlisle is located in a valley there must be a link between the geographic landscape and the air pollution that is one of the worse in the nation. Also the recent flooding in Harrisburg and surrounding areas in 2011 due to the overflowing Susquehanna river raises the question that is Carlisle being at 473 feet safe from flooding? The flooding received massive press coverage and National guards were employed. A lot of people were evacuated and lot of property was damaged.

5. When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

When we flush the toilet, everything goes to the Carlisle Regional Water Pollution Control Facility, which serves all of Carlisle, PA. “Wastewater received at the plant is subjected to a three-stage treatment and purification process which includes: (1) the settlement of solid matter, (2) the degradation of organic impurities through biological processes and, (3) filtration and chlorination.” The wastewater is purified, and then discharged into the Conodoguinet Creek. On the other hand, solid waste is condensed into sludge. Lime is added to the sludge to stabilize it and then it is trucked to farm field, where it is used as fertilizer.  This bio-solid fertilizer can either be applied to the surface of farm land or injected into the soil. This process is monitored by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, to ensure that facilities are meeting pollutant concentration standards.

The Carlisle Water Pollution Control Facility is an advanced wastewater treatment facility, which allows for the recycling of bio-solid waste. The Carlisle Water Pollution Control Facility current has an operational flow of on average 4.2 million gallons per day. The facility has been recycling bio-solids through land application since August 1981. “The program initially included five farms with a total of 395 permitted acres and has grown to include 25 permitted farms with approximately 1,845 acres. The borough land applies an average of 1,900 dry tons of lime stabilized bio-solids per year, while making sure that every effort to inform the public is taken.”

“During the past 20 years, the Department of Environmental Protection has permitted more than 1,500 sites for the application of bio-solids. However, the DEP has strict guidelines and regulation for land application of bio-solids. This number has not resulted in any water quality impacts on surface or groundwater. This shows that when properly managed, bio-solids do not pose a threat to human health and the environment.”

Queen Ann's Lace

6. What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here?

Spring is a time of mass transition in Carlisle from the cold weather to much nicer weather. Early spring is usually considered between end of February to the start of March when still parts of Carlisle is covered in snow. The most common spring wildflowers to appear are Dandelion, Queen’s Ann’s Lace and Skunk cabbage. Dandelion and Queen Ann’s Lace are very common and can be seen often around a casual walk around the Dickinson campus and surrounding areas. Spring wildflowers are like a sign that shows the end of harsh cold winters and the start of much charming and sunny summer ahead. Also it is quite fascinating that these wildflowers appear by themselves and are thus natural. But sadly the National Garden Association cites Dandelion as a weed epidemic that leaves no place in Carlisle and suggests that pulling, digging, organic herbicides and reduce reseeding as solutions to get rid of the problem. From the knowledge from Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber, we should never use chemical herbicides to get rid of unwanted plants and weeds because of their disastrous effects on humans and bio-diversity in general.


As kids growing up in the 21st century, we have greatly distanced ourselves from nature. People have stopped thinking where the tap water comes from or what happens every time we flush or the origin of the food on our table. We are concerned more about the timing of our favorite TV show rather than when the sun rises or sets. May be this is pure ignorance or the curse of modernity but this Ecofeminism course along with the Bio-regional quiz asks us to be aware of what is really happening in this consumer oriented capitalistic culture where nature and people are continuously exploited to run the economy and produce goods that most of us do not even need. Both Vandana Shiva in “Soil Not Oil” and Wangari Maathai in “The Green Belt Movement” stress the importance of local community building in solving the food, energy and climate crisis that is upon us. Most importantly, all three are greatly intertwined and to solve one we need to change another. Fossil fuel is virtually used in every process of business and agricultural production and is the root cause of global warming. Hence we need to focus on our local community. But it is a pity that even though we made Dickinson College our home for 4 years we know very little about Carlisle and Cumberland County in general. This bio-regional quiz greatly helped us to acquaint with Carlisle and its surrounding areas.

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Pink Slime: Whose Lunch is Valued?

When I made the move from the elementary school building to the junior/senior high school building, I stopped packing my lunch. With that came the strange rules of what to eat at the cafeteria. Anything with beef was generally considered “unsafe” by segments of the student population, so hamburgers were avoided. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind this decision was, but I didn’t want to take my chances. If it had red meat, I wouldn’t eat it.

Hungry yet?

Recently I felt vindicated by this decision. There were a few articles in the news about this mysterious “pink slime” that is used in beef products. The pink slime is better known, and more successfully marketed as, finely textured lean beef. Beef Products Inc. has been creating this product for years, and it has been a mainstay in fast foods and school lunches. Although USDA has given this product the seal of approval, lately the product has been criticized for E. coli. Ammonia is used in processing the beef to kill the bacteria, yet it still comes up.

My mother is a middle school teacher. After reading about this debacle, I called her up in hopes that she would have more of an “inside persepective.” Sure enough, she had asked some of the cafeteria workers about the pink slime beef product, and they had a particularly disturbing answer. My mother’s school is given the product for free. Cafeteria workers therefore use the product before dipping into funding.

This incident is clearly indicative of a bigger problem, but is it particularly ecofeminist? The most basic connection is that women are generally in charge of taking care of children, which includes feeding them. If children are not getting the nutrition they need, society likes to point the finger at the mother. The fact that public schools, notoriously underfunded, have been using this for years when even McDonald’s won’t use it anymore is a bit suspect. McDonald’s has been publicly flogged for being intensely unhealthy (remember the film Supersize Me?), but it is cheap. Like the pink slime. Students going to public schools are susceptible to less healthy food by virtue of the food being cheap and the schools being underfunded.

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A final word while whipping up a meal

As I sit at my little kitchen table, I am overcome with the urge to cook a nutritious meal of brown rice with vegetables sprinkled with freshly-grated parmesan cheese and to bake some banana-chocolate-pecan-bran muffins. I can smell the aromas of the vegetables releasing their juices and letting their distinct and unique flavors mingle with one another as I gently stir them in the pan. The scent of roasting pecans and melting chocolate waft through the cracks of the oven. I want to light a candle this icy cold evening and invite a few friends to enjoy the meal with a glass of Bordeaux. Then reality smacks me in the face: it’s almost finals week.

I do in fact cook a meal this evening and decide to consciously think of every ingredient I am adding, of its origins and how it reacts with the other flavors. Instead of adding a whole myriad of seasonings as I usually do, it seems oddly important to keep the recipe simple. Just tomatoes, fresh basil, a garlic clove, olive oil, and some whole grain pasta.

I start thinking of my role as a woman in society and my attraction to all that is related to the kitchen. Is this a result of culture or is this a natural phenomenon? Culture versus nature— my thoughts rush back to our Ecofeminism class. As I daydream, I realize with a pang that our last class together is fast approaching. So instead of rushing downstairs to get my notes or a book while simultaneously considering the global implications of all the problems in our society, I decide to put my frenzied thoughts aside for a moment and approach the collection of cookware shoved in a small cabinet in my college apartment.

As I bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer, my thoughts lazily wander to “womanism” by Layli Phillips and this just leads me right back to Audre Lorde’s “the erotic”. My mind is usually zapping with static images and sounds rushing from one thought or feeling to the next. I breathe in deeply and embrace what I am doing at that instance. An image of a 50’s housewife flits through my thoughts. I cringe but then realize- why does that matter? I am happy and plus, “there is no alternative to food” as one of our classmates so eloquently stated a few weeks ago. So while doing a “chore” I might as well enjoy the process of providing nutrients for my body to generate energy.

If there something to remember in 50 years, it is that the the little things matter and bring joy. There is beauty and pleasure in most things we do each day. I don’t need to run away to a distant country to appreciate and be aware of the little charms in life such as the simple preparation of a wholesome meal. I don’t need to be in Toscany to appreciate my spaghetti bolognese or in France to savor a three course meal. I am here.

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